The World in Which We Occur: Molecular Colonialism
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MOLECULAR COLONIALISM IN THE REIGN OF MICROORGANISMS
Part of TWWWO Voice Archive
Recorded on Sunday 6 September 2015, 6:30–8 pm
SPEAKERS: Stefan Helmreich, Fran Gallardo, Jenna Sutela
This session inquires into how the study of organic networks helps redefine biological frontiers and reconceive our very notion of planetary scale. Waves, mud, and filtering organisms such as fungi, are examples of organic entities that register minor changes in our environment. Taking into consideration the behaviour of microorganisms as pivotal agents operating towards the mutation and evolution of living systems, we aim to think about the realm of molecular cartographies, and address their potential impact on bio and social structures. What are the limits of our instrumentalisation of scientific tools, representation regimes, and their impact upon our perception of life?
The World in Which We Occur is an event series co-led by Margarida Mendes and Jennifer Teets, taking place live over the telephone, and formulated around questions addressed by speakers across the world. Embarking on modern day issues rooted in the history of materiality and flux as well as pertinent politically enmeshed scientific affairs shaping our world today, the series’ premise is one of interrogation and epistemic search. To date, The World in Which We Occur has hosted sessions on the core debates of the Anthropocene, pharmakons (the body and the earth as a remedy and a poison), molecular colonialism in the reign of microorganisms, grief and climate change, and states of reserve and the legality of invisible regimes. It is currently exploring resource fetishism as its primary axis for the Lisbon presentation where it will bring together voices on water politics and earth metabolisms, from the perspective of art, science, law, the humanities, and activism.
Loosely inspired by, and set in the legacy of hybrids growing out of artist James Lee Byars’ 1969 "World Question Centre," The World in Which We Occur underlines the necessity for inquiry over an assertiveness of responses. “Could you offer us a question that you feel is pertinent in regards to your own evolution of knowledge?” asks Byars at the end of the line. The World in Which We Occur unveils incentives or queries as to generate further questions to build upon. It also aims to open up other areas of knowledge and speculation stemming from the core exercise of explicating one’s relationship within the current state of nature, in an era of erratic climatic behaviors. As a curation of voices, each session departs from an assisted dialing room set in an auditorium and is shared with an audience of listeners. The sessions are outsourced in the form of a growing archive.
The speakers recorded in previous sessions include Nabil Ahmed, Carolina Caycedo, Cormac Cullinan, Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Lori Gruen, Clive Hamilton, Pedro Neves Marques, Barbara Orland, Joana Rafael, Rory Rowan, Paulo Tavares, Etienne Turpin, Mi You, Paul N. Edwards, Peter Fend, Anna Tsing, Kai Bosworth, Stuart McLean.
STEFAN HELMREICH received his PhD in Anthropology from Stanford University and prior to coming to MIT held fellowships at Cornell, Rutgers, and NYU. His research examines the works and lives of biologists thinking through the limits of "life" as a category of analysis. Alien Ocean: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas (University of California Press, 2009) is a study of marine biologists working in realms usually out of sight and reach: the microscopic world, the deep sea, and oceans outside national sovereignty. This book, winner of the 2010 Senior Book Prize from the American Ethnological Society, the 2010 Gregory Bateson Book Prize from Society for Cultural Anthropology, and the 2012 Rachel Carson Book Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science, charts how marine microbes are entangled with debates about the origin of life, climate change, property in the ocean commons, and the possibility of life on other worlds. An earlier book, Silicon Second Nature: Culturing Artificial Life in a Digital World (University of California Press, 1998) is an ethnography of computer modeling in the life sciences. In 2000, it won the Diana Forsythe Book Prize from the American Anthropological Association. Helmreich's newest research concerns the cultural circulation of such abstractions as "water," "sound," and "waves." His essays have appeared in Critical Inquiry, Representations, American Anthropologist, and The Wire. New book is Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond (Princeton, 2016).
FRAN GALLARDO is a cultural “thingker” and imaginative technologist whose work explores the interface between ecology, technology and society. Within the umbrella of critical practices, or practice as a critique, Gallardo develops research forms often referred as art-led-enquiry. In other words, by using forms of critical creativity and radical experimentation he aims to re-imagine models of interaction in physical and social spheres. Gallardo is currently a PhD Candidate at the School of Geography with affiliated appointments in NMAT-Lab both at Queen Mary University. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. Gallardo is leading the project Talking Dirty: Tasting mud, networks of organisms (including humans) and post-environmental politics at the Mouth of the Thames, which aims to explore the multiple scales of biopower, governability and everyday life flowing through the Thames Estuary. Through a series of tasting experiments, public performances, and social media outlets, Gallardo asks, “How are different modes of “Slow Violence” sensed and made sense of through the analytical, critical and playful tools of our tongues?”
JENNA SUTELA has written, directed, installed and performed projects explore the ways in which we interface with technology. Her work has been presented, among other places, at Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki and South London Gallery and writing published by, for example, Frieze, Harvard Design Magazine and Sternberg Press. Sutela has a background in media and design research. She currently lives and works between Helsinki and Berlin.
JENNIFER TEETSis a curator, writer, researcher, and occasional performer based in Paris. Her research and writing combines inquiry, sciences studies, philosophy, and ficto-critique, and performs as an interrogative springboard for her curatorial practice.
MARGARIDA MENDES is a curator, writer and activist based in Lisbon/Madrid, where she currently co-directs the educational platform Escuelita at Centro de Arte dos de Mayo. From 2009-16 she directed the project space The Barber Shop in Lisbon, where she hosted a programme of seminars and residencies dedicated to artistic and philosophical research. She was part of the curatorial team of the 11th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea.
Prototype Session: The Anthropocene
Session 1: The Pharmakon
Session 3: Grief and Climate Change
Session 5: Water Politics
Session 6: Earth Metabolisms
Session 7: The Underground
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